This episode we’re taking a look at Unknown Armies, a roleplaying game that’s not strictly horror, but is close enough that we feel little remorse for talking about it. We also have too many hardened notches to feel remorse in general. We’ve done bad things. One of these bad things is discussing many GM-only parts of the game, so be warned that we’re laying its secrets as bare as the Naked Goddess herself.


This is how I’ve always imagined her ascension video to look.

If you haven’t encountered Unknown Armies before, don’t worry —  it already knows everything about you. It’s a modern game about magical weirdness wielded by obsessed, broken people. Whether or not you are one of these broken people depends on the type of game you play, both at and away from the table. If all this sounds a bit vague, it’s only because Unknown Armies is a difficult game to pin down. We spent around 90 minutes trying to do so, and all we have to show for it are a single ripped stocking filled with dead wasps, a half-used pack of incontinence pants and a weird feeling in our pancreas. Yes, we all share a single pancreas now. Don’t ask.


But at least it’s prehensile.

While most of the Unknown Armies line is currently out of print, the second edition of the core book is still readily available, and a third edition is in playtest. As wonderful as the supplements are (and they are pretty damn wonderful) there is more than enough meat in the main rulebook to keep you and your players satisfied. And when we say “meat”, we’re speaking metaphorically. Probably. Unknown Armies is a strange, strange game.


Some of the pages are particularly well marbled.

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14 comments on “Unknown Armies

  1. GB Steve Jun 9, 2015

    This one doesn’t seem to want to download. Are you having bandwidth issues?

    • I’ve tested it a couple of times and all looks well. We use Amazon S3 for the media files, and it’s usually about as reliable as these things can get. If there were problems earlier, they seem to have been resolved now.

  2. Did it download OK in the end Steve? My wife, Lucy, mentioned a problem downloading the previous episode, but it seemed to fix itself in a day or two.

    Please let us know if you have similar issues everyone.

  3. I liked this podcast, but as a long-time UA enthusiast, I think you sold the Avatars short in terms of the Invisible Clergy. If the current archetype of The Mother is a “June Cleaver” (50s housewife), an Avatar following the path of The Mother can attempt to replace them by being a more-current representation of what The Mother is (think soccer mom). If “Soccer Mom” is what the world thinks of as The Mother nowadays, their skill goes up commensurately, threatening the current “Cleaver” Mother in the Clergy. So the drive of the Soccer Mom is to make their representation of The Mother ever more present in the minds of everyone.

    I don’t recall if UA2 talks much about the WECHBY, but that’s the archetype that the Naked Goddess ascended as. An avatar of a similar archetype (call her the Lipstick Lesbian) can *potentially* be a better representation of the WECHBY and threaten the NG, but She isn’t going to take that lightly, and her Cult might be the instrument which she wields against the LL.

    • Good catch, and that’s a great way of putting it!

      I’m pretty sure second edition still refers to her as the WECHBY.

  4. I’m somewhat concerned as to the factual errors in this podcast. It was entertaining, but given how often I wanted to correct the speakers I can’t view it as a reliable guide to games, books, or movies.

  5. Donald Bachman Jun 17, 2015

    I would say you got the feel of things right and gave decent detail and what errors there were are minor.

    As example, Epideromancer’s taboo is letting anyone else modifying their bodies. Get a haircut from a barber and no charges. Healing with magic is fine, but of course self-defeating as you give up charges you got by harming yourself to do so.

    Or that there are a few renegade Pornomancers and perhaps a small schismatic group which feel Daphne Lee has the wrong take on what the ascension of the Naked Godess meant.

    Archetypes with ascended avatars can still be filled, you have to dislodge the sitting avatar by mounting a symbolic challenge which involves a lot of work. The person who is sitting at the cusp of making such a challenge is called the Godwalker and gets another channel they define which no other Avatar has access to. But only one person can be sitting there and people beneath you probably want you out of the way so they can rise to the point of making the challenge.

    By rules of the book, Avatar + Adept is really rare, requires being insane (though that does not mean funhouse, do nothing but drool), and is really meant for NPCs. A GM can allow a player to do it but its not really encouraged.

    Frankly, I don’t think the deviations are all that meaningful. I really enjoyed the podcast.


    • Thanks for that! It’s ironic that we made so many mistakes, given our recent episode on research. We’ll try to be more accurate next time.

    • It’s also worth noting that some Avatar paths and Adept schools aren’t compatible with each other. For example, the Gambler archetype approaches chance in a totally different way than Entropomancers, and as consequence you can’t adhere to one without violating the taboo of the other. Try to be both and you end up being neither.

  6. This was quite an enjoyable discussion for a brilliant game. There were some nitpicks one might have about the interpretation of how Adepts and Avatars and such work, but I think I’ll go one level deeper and be a pedantic asshole about something even more irrelevant – the explanation of the game’s title given in the episode is, in fact, wrong. (or at least it seems to be). While my sources of information are all second hand (found in this thread on rpg.net: http://forum.rpg.net/archive/index.php/t-129590.html ) The title Unknown Armies seems to be a rather oblique reference to a W.B. Yeats poem.

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